Friday 6 January 2017

On the requirement for having ID in order to vote

Anything to improve our democracy. Anything. Literally; I want the best system we can devise - secure against fraud, easy to use and understand, fair.

I guess we are gradually creeping forwards, although we still lag behind much of the world in many aspects.

Recent changes may have been well intentioned, but I wonder whether we are throwing obstacles in the way of those wishing to express their suffrage. The process of registering and voting seems to getting a little more complicated. This worries me. In an era when, by and large, voter engagement at the ballot box is declining making the process more complicated is not going to see increased turnout.

The latest change is the necessity for identification when casting your vote.

I cannot really argue against making the act of voting more secure against fraud, but I do have some observations.

The first concerns actually having identification - not everyone can readily get hold of ID. When I voted last year it was less than two months after a house move, and proving my address at the beginning of May could have been problematical. (As it is, I vote by post which neatly avoids this hurdle.)

Secondly, what of those who turn up without ID - once turned away will they bother returning? I hope so, but as many political activists will tell you, actually persuading someone to go to a polling station can be a challenge, let alone encouraging a repeat visit in order to prove they are who they claim they are.

Thirdly, whilst busy polling stations are a rarity for local elections, during a General Election there are peak times -  a voting rush-hour so to speak. I have witnessed long queues. Adding the requirement to check ID will slow down the process of voting, and at peak voting periods this could put people off; it could even mean exclusion if the polling station closes whilst they are waiting to exercise their democratic rights.

I hope some commonsense will prevail during busy periods. This would mean either accepting the polling card as ID (as often happened in the past), or by doing sample checks as opposed to checking every voter.

We must have a fair and secure democracy, but we must also encourage participation - not make the process more onerous.


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St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition